Steven Zimmerman

El Paso, Texas, is a great city. We are an open and welcoming city. When President Trump was here back in February of 2019, for a rally, both Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Beto O’Rourke extoled the virtues of our city at a counter rally. We were admonished to welcome everyone with open arms by Beto, by Veronica, by everyone who spoke. Then, tragedy struck our city – twice.

On August 3, 2019, a raciest coward walked into an El Paso Walmart and opened fire. In the end, twenty-two people are now dead with just over two dozen injured and in hospital. Our community, our city, was wounded. As we learned more about the shooter, we came to realise he came to El Paso with but one goal, to kill Hispanics.

During Beto O’Rourke’s counter-rally in February, he said, to the cheers of all present that El Paso, is “secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect.”

Dignity and respect seem to be in short supply these past few days.

“We stand for the best traditions and values of this country for our fellow humans and who we are when we are at our best, and that’s El Paso, Texas,” said O’Rourke back in February. “I’m glad the country is here to see us.”

On August 7, 2019, the President of the United States paid a visit to El Paso.  The President wanted to visit with first responders as well as those who were injured in this past Saturday’s shooting and the families of those who lost their lives. The eyes of the country were upon us once again.

Both O’Rourke and Escobar said that the President of the United States is not welcome in El Paso. Fernando Garcia, the Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights, said that President Trump is not welcome in El Paso.

I get it. I don’t see any anyone can look at the President’s Tweets or listen to his speeches and say he is not a racist or xenophobe. Remember, the President did say, “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? We should have more people from places like Norway.” (January 12, 2018)

Then, we have the same man, the President of the United States saying that four Members of Congress, all American Citizens – three of them born in the United States – needed to go back to where they come from. “Send them back,” became the chant of choice among his cult of personality.

The eyes of the world are upon us, and we failed.

At today’s rally, there were chants of “send him back.” There were people who screamed obscenities when Trump’s name was mentioned. Some people told me that all the President wants to do is have his photo taken with people in hospital – and I agree, this was nothing more than a very expensive photo op for him.

But there’s more.

“He needs to go back to Nazi times,” said Hector* (* name changed at speaker’s request). “He is too raciest for us. We need to send him back to whatever place he comes from.”

“He is the white devil,” is what Laura shouted above the din of the crowd. “A white devil who should rot in hell!”

“I vote Democrat, but I did not vote for Hillary. I also did not vote for Trump,” says David*, a United States Army Veteran. “You asked me what I think about Trump coming today, and I think he should. Let’s welcome him with the kind of hug only El Paso can give. Give him our brand of kindness, and maybe the stone over his heart will crack.”

Angelica*, his wife, disagreed. “He needs to take himself right to hell.”

Then there were the signs carried in by almost everyone. Some spoke to love and how we are a loving community. Others spoke to how we must stop the neo-Nazi invasion that seems to be a growing problem in this country. Then, there were the few that said, “Make America Brown Again.”

We are all mad. Each and everyone one of us is beyond angry. I lost a friend in Saturday’s shooting. I lost someone I’ll never be able to speak to again, listen to her stories, or family histories. I want to stand on the rooftops and shout that racism is not welcome in El Paso. I want to tell people that we are a community of love, acceptance, family. I want people to see that El Paso.

I want people to see the El Paso that existed Friday, August 2, 2019. That El Paso, sadly, is also in hospital.

We had the chance to be bigger. We had a chance to show not only Trump but the world, how strong Chuco Town is. We failed.

“I’m making a stand for the truth against lies and hate and ignorance and intolerance,” said O’Rourke, as the crowd (including myself) cheered him on. What happened?

Before I close this out, I want to remind you of the old television and radio commercials that used to air, the ones about getting inoculated, “El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces are one community,” they used to sing. It’s true, and we are one giant town, unlike anywhere else in the world. The next time the President comes, if that President happens to be tRump, let’s welcome him with overwhelming love. As David said, maybe we can crack that hard heart of his.

We stood against the lies. We are standing against hate – but met Trump’s hate with collective hate directed at him. We’re overcoming ignorance by showing the world that we don’t judge people based on the colour of their skin. We are standing against intolerance – but met Trump’s brand of intolerance with our own.

As for Beto O’Rourke, your past speeches live on the internet. I’ve quoted yours, and you click here to help you remember what you said. Maybe next time, you’ll take a stand against hate and keep your mouth closed.

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